What is an Influencer?
And why and when does it matter in voice over in reaching Millennials?
The notion of an “influencer” in marketing isn’t anything new: in essence, it’s an attempt to one-up word-of-mouth advertising by having that “mouth” be someone with a specific social status and following.
Ideally, for a product that aligns with a strong majority of that person’s base.
But the term, and style, of influencer marketing has exploded over the last couple of years with the non-stop rise of social media… and, thanks to Millennials now driving most social & online habits, with the changing definitions of “celebrity” and “influencer” status. Whereas pre-social media, those terms were relatively interchangeable, “influencer” is now almost strictly based on online, social media presence, and assumes that the tens of thousands of “followers” an influencer has will follow their lead in buying, consuming, and sharing your product.
So, this begs the question: are social influencers really the best for getting your message out… and turning consumer dollars into your dollars?
Influencers, and Maintaining Influence
For clarity, “influencers” are individuals with power to affect purchasing decisions based on their reputation, authority, knowledge, position or relationship. Largely, influencers are… influential in a specific niche [otherwise, they’d be “celebrity spokespeople”], and specifically garner/exert their influence via social media.
Undoubtedly, one of the strangest places to see the “influencer” trend turn up has been in voice over. Unless the person doing the voice over is on screen, very few people are able to distinguish the person behind the voice. Unless you’re, say, Amy Poehler, or Matthew McConaughey, where you’ve already spent over a decade in the public eye.
Yet, increasingly, casting directors and producers are seeking “influencers” for voice over work, per request of the end-client [a.k.a., the product].
This is a little surprising to see… and it’s not just because I’m not an influencer in that sense [I’m not very into social, and that’s OK!], and therefore my audition for someone looking for that may carry less weight. Frankly, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just hire the best person trained to do the job.
Voice Influencer, or Voice Actor?
What strikes me is this: the whole reason an influencer has any influence to begin with is that they peddle in authenticity — in being their “true” selves. If the people following the influencer see a reason *not* to trust them anymore, they’ve lost their base… and likely their career. [After all, no one is going to cast you for once being an influencer… unless you’re going in for Celebrity Real World Season 57 or something]. If you’re the end-client paying for a campaign, why would you hitch your wagon to someone who could just as easily accidentally damage your brand? After all, what’s more inauthentic than shouting to all of your friends, out of the blue, “Hey, this detergent is by far the best out there!” if you’ve never given a rat’s patoot about detergent before?
Meanwhile, hiring a trained voice actor — someone who makes their living fostering connections to script and character, while staying in the background — affords the end-client the luxury of finding the voice that most truly fits their brand and campaign, who has the versatility to deliver across multiple campaigns and strategies. Someone who recognizes that the product, not them, is what needs to be sold.
Not to mention, if you’re really trying to create brand identity [as opposed to hype], more often than not, your best bet is to maintain consistency in messaging… and that includes in your voice over. Think about it: one of the biggest changes in the last few years has come from Subway. For roughly a decade, they very, very successfully branded themselves as a health-conscious, care-driven chain for discerning customers who want to develop and maintain healthy habits & lifestyles. But, for the last couple of years, they’re pushing subs that have as many calories as one ought to have in a day [I never knew there were so many ways to have a Philly cheesesteak!]. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating all that kind of stuff. But, at this point, Jimmy John’s has a better reputation for healthful sandwiches — rather than adding bells & whistles, they’ve focused on their fresh ingredients & speedy delivery.
So, when & where do influencers belong?
There’s absolutely a time and place for influencers — that time is “hype,” and that place is “social.” But otherwise, if you’re looking for an influencer for your national campaign, there’s a good chance you’re just going to crater their credibility… and yours. No matter if you’re Subway or Jimmy John’s.
But, please… don’t ask me to pick between the two. Now that I eat keto, if I broke my diet, I’d just have both [good grief, I miss bread].